Last night Tom threw an almighty tantrum. It’s hardly surprising, he is two after all, but they are fairly rare and, in our sensitised parental state, we tend to pick over the aetiology of the tantrum, catalogue its cause and symptoms and then do our damnedest to avoid it happening again.
Because tantrums suck.
This one was my fault although, in the no-blame culture that pervades our house (really? OK, no overtly allocated blame then), there were many contributing factors that could be identified. Tom was exhausted when he got home from the childminder, whose daughter had plied him with chocolate just before he left, and, consequently, he was a greater pain in the butt at dinner time than he normally is. I love this pain in the butt, you understand, but his utter disinterest in meals until the ice cream comes out drives us to distraction.
So far, so toddler. So far, so normal family. The boy’s pooped (he’s decided that he’s not napping during the day any more), has just got home and wants nothing more than an opportunity to play in ‘Tom’s house’ while his parents, a little strung out from their respective working days, want to undo the dietary damage done by other people feeding our precious firstborn and assuage some standard, two working parents guilt. We get through it without redecorating the floor.
So we move on to bath time and everything starts to unravel; the tantrum kicks in, the snot starts to flow and… we have our most stark daily reminder of Tom’s deafness. What is a straightforward refusal to remove an item of clothing becomes infinitely more difficult to deal with, for me at least, when the item in question is his implant processor harness and the accompanying coils that enable him to hear. Refusal to remove a shirt is just a two year old who has lost his ability to understand; refusal to remove his hearing is something far more profound, whether it’s a mere extension of the stubbornness or not.
Last night this was compounded by Nik’s discovery that Tom’s right implant wasn’t working and, presumably, hadn’t been for some portion of the day. We know he can hear with his left implant, it was tested only last week, but listening with only one ear is incredibly tiring. The extra concentration required is enormous and must have contributed significantly to Tom’s fatigue and mood.
The battery in the right processor was flat – a development we hadn’t yet encountered. I instantly knew why; I had left the processor on the test setting overnight and, although I’d noticed in the morning, I had been in a rush to get Tom dressed and out of the house and had treated it with a laissez faire, ‘it’ll all be OK’ attitude that I would to dressing Tom in yesterday’s vest or forgetting his gloves.
I thought that attitude had gone when Tom had contracted meningitis… and certainly would never be applied to anything related to his hearing. Yesterday evening when all the crying was over and the boy slept, and now again when I write this, I was drawn back to the painful days when Tom was ill and I was reassuring myself and Nik that it was just another childhood bug, that all he needed was Calpol and an early night. And that is a place I don’t like to go but this stuff is all still so close to the surface. My coping mechanisms are good, most of the time but, given an opportunity to introspect, I leap at it.
Take this, seemingly innocent example. Checking on Tom when he’s asleep is one of the evening’s little luxuries that Nik and I share. Then one day she asked me:
‘Do you like this so much because he hasn’t got his processors or glasses on?’
How about that for loaded? Our angel, just as he was before all this happened, not how he’s going to look day in, day out for the rest of his life. How are we going to help his self-esteem if, deep down, we still linger over the gadget-free pre-meningitic version? It seems that every way we turn; every preference we show is entrenched with hidden meaning.
So – getting back to where I came in - avoiding this sort of tantrum and this sort of journey into the recent dark past is based on good battery management. Remember that.